On May 18th the European Parliament passed a resolution on road transport in the European Union. The timing is no coincidence: On the May 31st Commission is going to present a Mobility Package that will include some reforms particularly aimed at road traffic and the transport industry. As representative of Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan only presented a few details of the specific content of the package. Parliament, however, has already clarified how the European road traffic of the future is to be shaped.
The resolution on transport in the European Union, which has been adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday, contains important and clear claims addressing the Commission. This is particularly the case with regard to the labour standards of employees of the transport sector: Social dumping, bad working conditions and low wages are core issues, which have been pointed out for years by employee representatives. In Parliament, Karoline Graswander-Hainz (S&D) emphasised the need for rigorous controls on European roads instead of a dilution of current regulations. This is ever more the case as long as the principle of equal pay for equal work at the same place is not put in place.
Already in April, European trade-unions clarified how important a hard stance against social dumping is – in the course of a demonstration organised by the ETF in Brussels they raised again awareness about the catastrophic working conditions of professional drivers on European roads. A need for action is particularly pressing with regard to the Posting of Workers Directive, which is currently under debate in European institutions, and which plans an exemption clause for the transport sector. Further, the avoidance of national provisions by the means of letterbox companies and provisions for cabotage, which defines transport within states conducted by foreign companies, have to be properly considered. As a common study of VIDA and WKÖ shows a financial loss of 500 Mio. Euros in Austria alone on the basis of illegal cabotage.
Phil Hogan, Agriculture Commissioner and in Parliament as representative of Transportation Commissioner Violeta Bulc, explained the key concepts of the upcoming Mobility Package, which is going to be presented on May 31st. The Commission plans to bring forward a policy brief on the fight against shell companies and a sector specific recommendation for the transport sector with regard to the Posting of Workers Directive. The recording of truck tachographs should assist in putting the regulations into practice. The provision on cabotage is to be simplified and there are no prevised changes of driving and minimum rest periods. It remains to be seen after the publication of the policy brief, whether the Commission's announcements are followed by action taking the interests of employees seriously.
According to Commissioner Hogan, a further emphasis is going to be put at the promotion of low-emission traffic, which is to include stronger incentives with regard to the polluter pays principle. Accordingly, the Eurovignette directive, which regulates the management scope of Member States with regard to the tolling system for trucks, is to be extended to busses and even passenger cars. Member States are still to decide freely whether tolls are collected. In case that a toll is chosen, it should be based on the polluter pays principle dependent on the distance covered.
This announcement contrasts the fact that only one day earlier the Commission has announced that the infringement procedure against Germany concerning the envisaged toll for private cars is to be closed. In a short transmission the Commission reached the conclusion that “Germany has addressed its concerns by removing any discrimination based on nationality.” Despite the clear position of the European Parliament against the German road toll system, the Commission seems to be satisfied with the minor fee changes that have been adopted by the German Bundestag in March. The Austrian Minister of Transport Jörg Leichtfried announced that he will lodge a claim against the German toll at the ECJ, as its implementation does represent a discrimination of foreign passenger car owners.